Enrollment Management > Signature Initiatives > Talent Management Strategy

Formalizing a Workforce Strategy Through a Competency-Based Approach

​In the ever-changing landscape of higher education, institutions are challenged to build a workforce that is agile and strategically responsive. But how is that done?

In DePaul’s Division of Enrollment Management (EM), it starts with a basic premise: jobs are not as flexible as the people who occupy them. In a chapter titled "Tomorrow’s SEM Organization: New Perspectives and Priorities for a Changing Workforce," David Kalsbeek, former senior vice president of EM, wrote about "dejobbing" the enrollment management organization. He suggested shifting focus from static jobs in rigid organizations to a talented, flexible workforce. EM is expanding on the "dejobbing" concept to build its collective talent.

EM’s approach is to hire and develop employees who are able to not only perform their current roles but have the necessary qualities to adapt and succeed as the priorities and needs of the division change. EM is implementing this approach through the development of the EM Competency Model Project, the foundation for its talent management strategy.

The first phase of implementation was to create a library defining competencies (the combination of knowledge, skills, abilities and behaviors that describe how to accomplish what a position is expected to deliver) required for the breadth and depth of work that is done in the division. This library was then used to describe each position within the division. To house this information, EM developed an online tool to which all employees within EM have access.

Through this significant step, managers shifted the focus from defining a position by percentages of time spent on a set of static tasks toward a set of competencies required to fulfill a role even as the role evolves. This approach builds organizational capacity and provides increased clarity for staff regarding career development in the division.

Measures of success for EM’s talent management efforts include higher employee engagement and lower attrition rates resulting from an increased understanding by management and staff regarding potential career paths within the division. The broadest measure of success, however, is achieving and exceeding university goals with a talented, adaptive and agile workforce.

In 2010, DePaul’s Division of Enrollment Management and Marketing (EMM) created a master list of competencies that apply to positions throughout the division. Referred to as the EMM Competency Library, this list contains 39 competencies developed by the division’s leadership and validated by staff within the division.

A competency is a combination of knowledge, skills, abilities and behaviors that describe how to accomplish what a position is expected to carry out. Each competency is composed of two basic parts: 1) the competency name and definition, and 2) behavioral descriptors, which offer specifics about what actions demonstrate the competency and exemplify success. The behavioral descriptors in each competency are specifically used to determine proficiency levels (i.e., basic, intermediate or mastery) that are used for job grading, selection, performance assessment and professional development.

The EMM Competency Library is organized into four categories:

  • Foundational Competencies: Basic knowledge, skills and abilities demonstrated by all employees to execute position responsibilities on a day-to-day basis. (All positions within EMM will have each of these competencies.  There are a total of seven competencies.)
  • Sustaining Competencies: Capabilities needed to move forward and ensure ongoing and continued success. (Most positions within EMM will have at least some of these competencies. There are a total of seven competencies.)
  • Strategic Competencies: Capabilities that are expected of senior leadership. (Typically, director-level and above positions will have these competencies. There are a total of four competencies.)
  • Functional Competencies: Specialized content knowledge, skills and abilities required to effectively achieve results in a functional area. (Each position will have a set of these competencies. There are a total of 21 competencies.)

Each position in EMM requires anywhere from 10 to 28 competencies; the combination of competencies—as well as the expected proficiency levels—depends on the position's level and area within the division.


The language within the EMM Competency Library allows staff, managers and division leadership to have more meaningful conversations regarding professional performance and development as well as provides context for talent management strategies.  The model also helps hiring managers identify candidates with the right competencies for their open positions.

The following offers one example competency and a selection of its associated behavioral descriptors for each of the four categories found within the EMM Competency Library.

Foundational Competency
Effective Communication: Clearly, appropriately and persuasively conveying information and ideas when speaking and writing
  1. Maintains professional demeanor when communicating with others and adjusts style and content appropriately.
  2. Demonstrates active listening and responds openly to others.
  3. Asks questions to ensure own understanding of issues and others' intent and feelings.
  4. Uses facts or evidence to support the main idea or message.
  5. Adheres to established standards for written, visual, recorded and oral delivery of messages.
  6. Able to tell a story based on data to inform and influence decisions.
  7. Organizes ideas and insights in a logical, understandable and compelling manner.
  8. Identifies the right communication vehicle, including social media, appropriate to the audience and situation.

Sustaining Competency
Self-Awareness: Operating with a combination of authenticity, curiosity, truth-facing, insight seeking, courage and openness

  1. Accurately assesses own feelings, interests and strengths.
  2. Finds self-motivation during times of pressure and stress.
  3. Knows how to monitor own ego and self-interest seeking.
  4. Maintains a firm grasp of own capabilities and limitations.
  5. Asks for feedback and insights and invites others to support one's own continuous self-discovery, development and personal growth.
  6. Uses emotional intelligence skills to connect with others and understand their interests.
  7. Shows empathy, relates to others and understands their needs.
  8. Demonstrates compassion for others with authenticity and integrity.
Strategic Competency
Thought Leadership: Using in-depth understanding of audience, stakeholders and strategic objectives to integrate ideas and raise awareness
  1. Stays ahead of research, literature and trends.
  2. Integrates ideas from multiple internal and external stakeholders to build concepts and plans.
  3. Frames and takes positions on issues related to unit, department, division, university and higher education to raise awareness of the university, its mission or brand.
  4. Recognizes the impact of communication opportunities and effectively guides and shapes the development and delivery of messages to maximize influence and effectiveness with the target audience.
  5. Contributes to shaping and building consensus around the division's and university's position on key, emerging issues.
  6. Takes advantage of gaps in awareness or understanding to stake out positions and provoke new perspectives on key issues.
  7. Makes optimal use of networks and relationships to communicate messages and build strategic alliances on key issues.
  8. Active in external professional communities and the dialogue about the work one does.
Functional Competency
Advising & Counseling: Listening to students/customers and providing advice, service, support and recommendations
  1. Demonstrates active and attentive listening and has patience to "hear people out."
  2. Seeks to understand others' personal background and situation and uses this understanding to provide appropriate guidance and service.
  3. Offers clear and appropriate insight in a tactful and appropriate manner to address others' concerns.
  4. Facilitates open and clear discussion by asking probing questions, listening and responding honestly.
  5. Treats others with, and acts with, integrity and respect and remains open to the opinions and concerns of others.
  6. Maintains current knowledge of relevant external and university programs, resources and policies and shares this knowledge appropriately and accurately.
  7. Ensures appropriate referrals to others for more information or resources when necessary.
  8. Maintains knowledge and expertise appropriate to topic area and offers perspective and experience to serve as a resource to others.